That Reading Life

Books we…love, hate, etc.


I also like books about the Tudors

I saw this on a Facebook post in a book group I’m in and thought I’d try it just to see what my brain comes up with. Then, I asked my boys to fill it out too. We thought there could be a ton of overlap between categories but tried to avoid it.

BOOK I HATE: The Shack. The effing Shack. If I never hear about that terrible book again, it will be too soon.

BOOK I LOVE: Jane Eyre; I love lots of books. This is just one.

BOOK I THINK IS OVERRATED: The DaVinci Code ; Girl, Wash Your Face (So sick of seeing this schlock everywhere, especially endorsed by MLM sellers.)

BOOK I THINK IS UNDERRATED: Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky; Dietland by Sarai Walker

BOOK I COULD READ ON REPEAT: One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus, The Lord of the Ring series, The Secret Garden

BOOK THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS: Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – I read this in about third grade and, while I was already an avid Baby-sitters Club reader, this book sort of opened me up to the general wonder of books, maybe because it was about a girl my age and set in a different time. Historical fiction is still one of my favorite genres.

BOOK THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott; given to me by a friend as a young mother and it helped me to have less mom-guilt.

GUILTY PLEASURE: Books about French women doing it better; books by Cathy Glass; Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

BOOK I SHOULD HAVE READ BY NOW BUT HAVEN’T: War and Peace, The Catcher in the Rye, Les Mis, and anything by Virginia Woolf

Here’s Ben’s


Unrelated pic of Artemis for fun

BOOK I HATE: The Pearl. Had to read it for school. Who knew that a book so short could be so tedious, or that symbolism so heavy-handed could be regarded as impressive?

Book I LOVE: Moby Dick. It seems to be polarizing, but I love it. Thought about it for “Underrated” but it’s recognized as a classic so it can’t be THAT underrated.

BOOK I THINK IS OVERRATED: To Kill A Mockingbird. I read it and it was totally decent. But it gets wayyy too much hype. Fight me.

BOOK I THINK IS UNDERRATED: The Name of The Wind (and the Kingkiller Chronicle in general) is amazing. But it is naturally overlooked because it’s “genre” fiction. And it hasn’t crossed over to the mainstream like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, despite being better than either.

BOOK I COULD Read ON REPEAT: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

BOOK THAT MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH BOOKS: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, particularly the Michael Hague illustrated edition gifted to me by my Aunt Kate. It features an engaging story, glorious world-building, and the book itself is beautiful.

BOOKS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: The Hobbit (because see above), Life Inc by Douglas Rushkoff, Watership Down, On the Genealogy of Morality, After Buddhism by Stephen Batchelor, and the works of David Gemmell. No one book in particular for Gemmell, just all the down-to-earth philosophy he doles out through his characters.

GUILTY PLEASURE: The Complete Hammer’s Slammers Vol 1

BOOK I SHOULD HAVE READ BY NOW BUT HAVEN’T: A People’s History of The United States

And here’s Jake’s…


Just one more

BOOK I HATE: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

BOOK I LOVE: The Great Gatsby; Animal Farm; 7 Brief Lessons on Physics


BOOK I THINK IS UNDERRATED: Captain America Comics






So, how about you? What would you list under some of these categories?

Friday Fives

Friday Fives

This is a new type of post I thought up after seeing some other bloggers something similar. I thought it’d be fun to share, generally, what I’m into on a week-by-week basis and, if you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear what you’re into lately too! Please do comment even if you feel like what you’re into isn’t that exciting. I’m always getting ideas from fellow bloggers and readers, so I’m happy to hear whatever you have to say. 🙂

What I’m Watching:

90210 (2)

RIP Luke Perry ❤

Beverly Hills 90210 on Hulu and freaking loving every moment and amazing 90s outfit.

What I’m Reading:

We all know I’m in a bit of a slump reading-wise, so I have little to say here, except that I’m slowly working through a (please don’t laugh too hard) James Van Praagh book called Unfinished Business. I mean, what if reincarnation is real?! I need to stay informed.

First We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah WilsonWhat I’m Listening to:

Also listening to the audiobook version of Sarah Wilson’s First We Make the Beast Beautiful and loving it. I recommend it for anyone who’s dealt with anxiety, depression, OCD, or, honestly, any other confounding mental disorder.

CollageWhat I’m Making:

Collage everything. I discovered artist Clover Robin last year and ordered her wonderful book Cut Paper Pictures. I’m messing around copying her style to learn how everything is done.

What I’m Loving:

  1. Springtime heart eyes emoji heart eyes emoji
  2. I got my April Pipsticks envelope and this bear card was in it and I love it so much.


How about you? What are you into/up to?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 perfect rainy day books

I know, I’m like way too late for Top Ten Tuesday. I haven’t done one of these in awhile, but I love rainy days and spring is upon us at last, so I thought this would be a fun list to do along with other readers of That Artsy Reader Girl (her post, with all other participants is here).

More Top Ten Tuesday posts here.

Here we go.

10 Perfect Rainy Day Books


JaneEyre1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Full disclosure: this is one of my favorite books. But what could be better on a rainy day than a classic gothic novel? Wander the weather-beaten moors with me, friend.



TheDollintheGarden2. The Doll in the Garden by Mary Downing Hahn

Yeah, it’s a children’s book, but hear me out. This book creeped me out as a kid and it creeps me out now. It has a lonely young girl, an old Victorian house, and spooky ghosties—perfect for stormy weather.


AmericasMostHauntedHotels3. America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests by Jamie Davis Whitmer

Spooky. Ghosties.



BoarIsland4. Boar Island by Nevada Barr

This is, sadly, the only book by Nevada Barr I’ve ever been able to get into, despite loving national parks and general outdoorsy-ness. Her Anna Pigeon series boasts a female lead and each is set at a national park. Anyway, Boar Island is set, yes, at an island outside Acadia National Park in Maine and features stormy waters and a stalker. I found it quick-paced enough to hold my attention. For some reason, other Anna Pigeon books just don’t feel that way to me and I haven’t been able to get through any others. If you have read-alike recommendations for me, I’m all ears!

TheSoulofanOctopus5. The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

In my opinion, a rainy day is the perfect weather in which to contemplate the depths of consciousness.


AHouseinFez6. A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco by Suzanna Clarke

Tired of the rain? Too gloomy for you? Not in the mood for introspection? I recommend traveling to a very desert-y place to combat the blues. This is a book Ben bought for me one Christmas. It is a dream of mine to go to Morocco. I haven’t made it yet, but I plan to.

EveryBodyYoga7. Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear. Get On the Mat. Love Your Body. by Jessamyn Stanley

A free afternoon to read? Focus on you.


EnglandinChains8. London in Chains: An English Civil War Novel by Gillian Bradshaw

Broody, England-y, and if you like it, this is a series. Features a female protagonist who defies social norms by reading and getting involved with a printing press.


Dewy9. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

This book may have the same effect on you as a cozy mystery. It’s heartwarming and gentle, but also tells the story of a town library and has a fun cast of characters. Perfect for a cozy reading session curled up on the couch.

TheSecretGarden10. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

You didn’t think I could get through a rainy day list, in the springtime no less, without mentioning The Secret Garden, hmm? Dirt. Rain. Moors. Perfection.



In conclusion, I feel that just about any book is good on a rainy day. The best thing about it is that you’ve made some time for reading.

That Reading Life

I’m in a reading slump so give me your best tips

image of booksm on shelf

Not today, TBR pile.

Really mailing it in right now on the reading front. Ugh.

What breaks you out of a reading slump?

I have some general strategies around this as it is not my first rodeo. They include but are not limited to:

  • Reading something really short. Something I can knock out in an afternoon just to get the gears in my brain grinding. May result in momentum gained and, therefore, a renewed interest in reading in general. Or may not.
  • Reading something squarely in my wheelhouse. Ben taught me this one. This is not the time for reading challenges or tackling the stack of books I want to have read but don’t actually want to read (another phrase borrowed from Ben). This is the time for: reading the next book in a series I know I like; reading something new from a favorite author; rereading something from a favorite author; and themes I know and love (for me: ghosts, oppressed women; historical fiction; weight loss memoirs, self-help that I don’t find too annoying, etc.). This is the low-hanging fruit of your TBR or ABR (Already Been Read).
  • Reading a children’s book. If Mary Downing Hahn can’t get me through a reading slump, there may be no hope. In my experience, children’s books tend to move quickly because they can be plot-based and the language and characters are approachable. (Don’t come at me, children’s lit experts. I, too, am well-versed in the topic and these are generalizations. I’m aware of that.)  ❤
  • Audiobooks. I walk often and audiobooks are my boon companion. Those who cannot read may find that being read to is a much easier way to consume a book.
Production mode

Things I do in “production” mode: Art/crafting, puzzles, walking, decorating, writing

Accepting that I don’t want to read.

Quelle horreur! This gets its own section. People who love to read, who are book nerds, who take joy in tallying up the titles they conquer, can have a hard time accepting this one.

Also, I usually feel like my life is missing something when I can’t read. It is a major part of my existence and, therefore, my identity.

But I go through these “modes” in my life that I have come to accept as just how I am. There’s production mode: this is about being creative and making things and doing; not necessarily about accomplishing, more about creativity. And then there’s consumer mode: this one is about taking things in: books, movies, tv, blogs, shows, whatever. Reading is much easier when I’m in consumer mode.

And that is just not the mode I’m in right now.

What about you? Would love to hear about other people’s reading slumps and the reasons/work-arounds.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Nonfiction, What Shannon Read

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America

40415813Have you ever had trouble losing weight? I sure have. If you follow me on Insta—and I suspect you don’t because I’m not exactly a major influencer— you know that I am on my own weight loss journey. It is slow going and any weight loss I achieve is the product of dedication, determination, and weeks and weeks of pure mind-fucking.

Weight loss is hard.

So I appreciated journalist Tommy Tomlinson’s exploration of his own journey  in The Elephant in the the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America as he works his way down from 460 pounds. This is not your typical weight loss memoir. Tommy goes down a couple of clothing sizes by the end of the book, but that’s not the point. The point is that he continually works his way up toward health from a deep physical and emotional well that he has dug himself. Understanding why you got where you are, and motivating yourself to change is the crux of the battle.

Here’s a particularly poignant passage on addiction:

This is the cruel trick of most addictions. They’re so good at short-term comfort. I’m hungry, I’m lonely, I need to feel a part of the world. Other people soothe those pains with the bottle or the needle. I soothe them with burgers and fries. It pushes the hurt down the road a little bit, like paying the minimum on your credit card bill every month. The debt never gets settled. Those little moments of comfort are also moments of avoiding the discomfort behind it. In that small instant when the salt and grease get into my veins, it’s a release. But then, when I look up and out and back, my life is measured not in days or years or heartbeats but in an unbroken string of takeout bags.

This man leads the examined life and is straight proof that fat people aren’t “lazy,” not mentally and not physically. There are a million reasons why someone gets fat. Among them are behavioral conditioning, hormones, and genetics. And for most of us, getting out of the hole we’ve dug, requires, yeah, a whole lot dedication, determination, and mind-fucking.

Even if you don’t struggle with food or your weight, I recommend this memoir. Tommy is an adept writer and just so damn relatable. You’ll find intelligence and humor in these pages, whether you’re interested in the topic or not.

Life Stuff

50 things I love about my spouse: a cheesy Valentine’s Day ode


The man himself on his birthday

Guys, I know it’s cheesy and not at all book related, but I can’t help myself. I reeeally appreciate my husband and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to shower him with affection.

So, following is a list of things I love about my husband. Some of them are about his personality, some are about our relationship, and some are about, specifically, how good he is to me and our little family.


1. He’s kind and always tries to give people the benefit of the doubt (trust me, I would know).

2. I can write him emails with random thoughts and he happily follows me down the tangent.

3. Also on the topic of emails, he thinks up witty or sometimes just silly subject lines that we use over and over—e.g., Thirsty Thorsday, ICBIOFT (I Can’t Believe it’s Only Fucking Tuesday).

4. We can trade emails all day, every workday.

5. He takes the time to express approbation of my silly paper crafts and random artsy creations even though they’re not particularly of interest to him.


Not partying, but at the local watering hole, just hanging out

6. We party really well together. 😀 Have since college, for better or for worse, and I hope we never grow out of it.

7. He speaks my love language, which is Chinese food and Netflix.

8. He endeavors to bring a balanced perspective to any scenario and the older he’s gotten, the more insightful he’s gotten. That’s helpful for a black-and-white thinker like yours truly. Up is up and down is down to me, but apparently, there’s this thing called balance? Idk.

9. That beard tho

10. Reading seems as intrinsic to his existence as it is to mine and that gives us so much to talk about.

11. He also really likes going to the library.

12. He stays up too late talking with our son just because they enjoy hanging out together.

13. He does most of the shoveling.


A+ dad with his A+ kid in the UP; Lake Superior in the background

14. He is 6’4, ladies. Tall guys, amirite? Smiling Face With Heart-Eyes on Google Android 9.0

15. He goes to the Indy 500 every year and watches the race.

16. When I ask him if he’ll crack my back, he wraps his arms around me and squeezes and it’s like this really cozy orthopedic hug.

17. He’s a big friend whore. Honestly, loyalty is of the utmost importance to him, so if you are close to him, you know he cares about you.

18. Again, he’s a big friend whore. He’s the extrovert this relationship needs. We refer to him as “hopelessly sociable” and also Head of the Social Committee. If I were in charge of the social committee, we’d have no friends because I am hopelessly introverted. One time he said, “In high school I always just wanted to hang out with my friends and I guess that’s still the case.” What a guy.

19. He puts up with my introvert tendencies and heads out without me if I feel the need to hibernate, which is, admittedly, pretty often.

20. He’s taught me to go easier on myself. I don’t have to rush or be perfect. Progress, not perfection. He models this for me and encourages me to follow suit.

21. We can decide to stay in and still have the most fun just having cocktails on the couch and listening to music. He doesn’t mind when I accidentally drink four rum-and-diets and go to bed early.


Cocktails on the couch or a grand adventure – he’s up for either

22. He wheels the trash and recycling to the curb and back every damn week.

23. He pretty much paid for our whole lives up until I got out of debt for the last terrible time a few months ago. I mean, I contribute to the household and am responsible for certain shared bills as well as child-related expenses, but he kept us afloat from the time we moved in together to basically now. In addition, he pays for endless meals out, plane tickets, hotel stays, whole Christmases, you name it. What I’m saying is, he’s generous with his money and he’s generous with me, and that just makes me feel so loved.

24. He loves to travel as much as I do.

25. He’s way smarter than I’ll ever be. He used to tutor in calculus, people. I literally do not even know what calculus is and I am 38 years-old.


At a hockey game – he sometimes has to explain sports to me too

26. He’s a thoughtful parent and a great dad to Jacob. There are no scary, knee-jerk, classic DAD reactions. When something goes wrong, we discuss it and decide on a plan of action. He’s fair and forgiving, and I think Jacob is all the better for it.

27. He smiles and waves at people who smile and wave at him from a car going by even if he doesn’t know who it was because, he says, “I’d rather be weird to strangers than accidentally rude to friends.”

28. He loves the UP as much as I do. Every year we have to decide between a totally new adventure and camping in the UP, and that really tells you what a special place it has become for our little family.

29. He knows about cars. I know nothing about cars and don’t care to and when my car is in the shop, the repairs have to be explained to me like I am a 1950s housewife who went from her father’s house to her husband’s (which, I actually did) and has never heard of feminism before because I just do not get it. He’s pretty patient with me on that front.

30. He always heats up soup on the stove.

31. Notre Dame football games can make him legitimately emotional.

32. When I come up with a hair-brained scheme, he supports me.

33. He has roughly a thousand nicknames for me and uses them all. The most enduring are probably “Shan-star” and “Shan-bad,” both from the Strong Bad internet cartoons.

34. He is nice to people who come up to him on the street and ask him for money.


“I’m allergic to cats though, sorry bro”

35. He didn’t really care about getting a dog, but now he and Artemis totally have their “thing.” She probably treasures his love the most out of all of us because his was earned, whereas Jake and I fell in love right away.

36. He has, like, two pairs of work pants and that’s enough for him, you know?

37. He’s funny.

38. He laughs at my jokes.

39. He and I celebrate occasions (like Valentine’s Day, our anniversary, etc.) but they don’t have to be this big whopping deal with presents and stuff and there’s something really nice and low-key about that. It’s very stress-free.

40. He’s a walker. He’ll walk wherever whenever if the weather isn’t disgusting.

41. He appreciates it when I do things that contribute to the household (chores and whatnot) and thanks me when he notices me doing them.

42. He literally picked up a stranded hitchhiker yesterday and took her to the toll road and told her how to get where she was going. I ask you.

43. He’s rarely negative and when he is, he fixes it rather quickly. (A real foil to his mercurial spouse.)

44. He dances with me at weddings.


Dancing at our own wedding

45. He curates thematic playlists.

46. He talks about interesting things – books, art, music, history, movies, whatever. It’s one of the ways we connect and I love being able to talk things to bits with him.

47. When he was a kid, his parents took him to a museum and he loved a giant bear sculpture so much that his parents bought him a miniature replica. Because bears are awesome.

48. He hasn’t changed his Facebook profile pic since I created his profile in 2008.

49. He knows the lyrics to every song he’s ever heard. Ditto the script of every movie he’s every seen. 😉

50. He is my person and I couldn’t get through life without him.

You guys are lucky I stopped here. I could easily go to 100. Love you, huns!

2019 Classics Challenge, Fiction, What Shannon Read

Anna Karenina: I’m in it for the love stories, tbh

155I’m gonna’ need a major palate cleanser after plowing through Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina in one month. I’ve read 7 books so far in 2019 and I feel like I’ve read 20.

Anna Karenina is Tolstoy’s great novel centering on Anna’s love affair with Count Vronsky and, despite its doorstop status, this tome had me from the get-go.

About a zillion issues affecting 19th-century Russian society are covered in the novel and I do not know enough to talk about them intelligently but, to name a few, they include: liberal reforms (especially the Emancipation reform of 1861), the Industrial Revolution, education reform, military conflict, and the decline of the landed gentry. Also, art, beauty, and religion. I can see why it’s known as “the best novel ever written” (I read that somewhere) because it covers a lot of ground and covers it eloquently with sympathetic and multifaceted characters.*

But like the delinquent former English major I am, I noticed these themes and, rather than ponder their great truths, rushed through to the bits with the love stories. I’m hopeless, apparently.

The will-they-won’t-they gets me every time.

And the characters are just so wonderfully diverse and interesting. Who has time for social issues?

For starters, there’s Prince Stepan “Stiva” Arkadyevich Oblonsky, Anna’s brother and a civil servant who, at the beginning of the novel, is wrapped up in a drama with his wife Dolly. She’s just discovered his infidelity and while I felt for her, I couldn’t help but thoroughly enjoy Oblonsky. As Tolstoy described his morning routine, I had A Well Respected Man by the Kinks running through my head.

“There was no solution, but that universal solution which life gives to all questions, even the most complex and insoluble. That answer is: one must live in the needs of the day—that is, forget oneself.”

Oblonsky goes about his business like the well-respected man about town that he is and, while his obliviousness and lack of empathy for Dolly infuriated me, I still found myself enjoying his scenes.


I’m going to watch the Keira Knightly movie this week, even though I find her to be something of a tomboy who inappropriately clomps about most costume dramas.

There’s Anna, of course, who’s just so desperate and foolish-in-love and totally likeable. She shows remarkable self-awareness as she carries out an affair with Vronsky, but I was irritated as I watched her become powerless over the emotions that carry her away to her last fateful action. Which, tbh, I did not really understand. The build-up to this dramatic end was just not there for me.

And next, Kitty (Princess Ekaterina Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya – man, Russians have long names) with whom Levin (Konstantin “Kostya” Dmitrievich Levin) falls in love, provides the other love story in the novel. At the beginning of the novel, she’s actually  in love with Vronsky, who’s not in love with her, but is leading her on like the incorrigible fuckboi he is.

Levin pursues her and there is a great skating scene at the beginning that really gets you in the mood for some Russian weather. You can’t beat the sense of place in this novel. But anyway, by the end of the novel, Kitty is married to Levin and has given birth to their first child. She becomes a woman and because of her darling personality I think, it’s a joy to watch her grow.

And thus ends my terribly lacking discussion of the novel. I loved it and as far as I know, it is a fantastic introduction to the classic Russian novels. As translator Rosemary Edmonds says, (I read this on Wikipedia) it covers the “vast panorama of Russian life” and I certainly finished the novel feeling as though I’d gotten a foot in the door with Tolstoy.

*(All the while I’m typing this, I know that books and papers and studies have been written on this novel and by much smarter people than me, so my discussion of it pales in comparison to what’s available. I’m not worthy and I know it, so this is a basic, man on the street-type review.)

p.s. This is my entry for the Translation category of the classics challenge.